How to cut event costs and not quality

January, 10 2018

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Efficiency has always been a big concern for event organisers, and this year it’s been getting bigger. According to Eventbrite’s 2017 Pulse Report, 2017 has seen budgets become tighter and definitions of ‘success’ more strict. Weighed against this is what Meetings & Conventions calls ‘the festivalisation of events’ – a trend towards more people, more entertainment, more energy, more apps – and more expense.

The brands who approach us to run their events are trying to strike a balance. They want to economise, but they also want to put on a show. Simply, they want to do more with less.

Our approach to helping them comes in two parts: focus on the essentials in the planning stage, and cut unnecessary spend elsewhere. Here’s how it works.

Focus on the essentials

There are two things event planners need to have absolutely crystal clear before they start.

Firstly: the goal of the event. Running a great event is our goal, but for you, it has to serve a greater business purpose. Whether it’s to build awareness, win over new clients or secure pre-sales on a new product, the spend has to be directed toward the things that will make that happen.

Secondly: what’s important? Some aspects are must-haves: either the event literally won’t work without them – support staff for instance – or they’re non-negotiable, brand-specific necessities. The latter are vital elements in maintaining your values and reputation in delegates’ eyes.

For instance: laying on private jets for VIP delegates. These are expensive, but for many brands, they’re non-negotiable – VIPs have to be treated like VIPs, or they won’t show.

Disposable branded goods for the flight, though – headrest covers, menus and so on – are a ‘nice to have’. They’re not vital, and if spending cuts are called for, they should be among the first things to go.

Reducing spend elsewhere

  • Marketing automation. Event promotion lends itself to a structure – invitation, information, development, excitement, organisation and feedback. All of these steps are straightforward to automate, making the promotional process far more economical. Every step can be timed and targeted to build anticipation, drive sign-ups and ticket sales, and get attendees talking. If people are excited about your event they’re doing your marketing for you.
  • Bloat. Remember those ‘nice to haves’? They’re bloat. Do you need to offer a three course meal? Will anything from that gift bag matter by the end of the event, never mind when people have gone home? Brands often think certain things are must-haves, even if they can be cut without detracting from the event goals in the slightest.
  • Audio-visuals. Think big screens, lights, PA systems and microphones. Do you need a screen the size of a jet plane in the main foyer, or would a banner have the same impact? Sound and light shows are the essential ‘nice to have’ – they’re impressive enough, but they’re forgettable. What counts is a great speaker – not dry ice and fireworks to introduce them.
  • Shorten the event. A long event is not only more expensive – it has time to outstay its welcome, to fall from ‘inspiring’ into ‘fatiguing’. As a case in point, consider Cannes Lions. The ever-spiralling cost of the world’s foremost advertising festival has passed beyond investors’ tolerance – so they’re stripping down from eight days to five, and pruning over a hundred legacy categories. Multi-day events can and do work – the trick is to establish what attendees want and what’s necessary to achieve your goals.
  • Shorten the days. Evening award ceremonies are glitzy and glamorous, but they’re also expensive and they go on late, running the same risk of fatigue – and the evening timeslot is generally an expense in its own right, even before you settle in for seven or eight hours. A lunchtime award ceremony will be cheaper to book, there won’t be the expectation of rolling all night long, and there’s no reason to stint on the glamour just because you’re running in daylight.
  • After-show parties. Corporate events are a celebration, and it’s understandable that brands want to put on a spectacular show. The opening of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel might be the most grandiose product launch of all time, running into $31 million – but that was justified as a show of the hotel’s capabilities. For the vast majority of events, the party is the ultimate ‘nice to have’ – something that can afford to be low-key.

So – there are areas where cuts can be made, and there are things we can’t afford to lose. How do we tell if something is a must-have or merely a nice-to-have? There are two answers. Firstly, if you have existing data from previous years’ events, this can provide you with insights on what cost more than it delivered, and what made an impression in the after-event discussion. The other way is to treat the event as a completely blank slate. Assume nothing is essential, take nothing for granted, and build up the bare essentials from there. Every time you add something, ask “what is this meant to achieve” – and if there isn’t a hard and fast answer that directly fits an event goal, you know it’s not needed.   For more insight into how Rapiergroup runs the perfect event – on the perfect budget – download our complete guide to event planning success.

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